April 2015 marks two milestones for us: our work in the Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space in Buenaventura on the Pacific coast, and the El Mirador Temporal Humanitarian Space on the outskirts of Barranquilla, who celebrated their 1st birthday in April!
We said farewell to Gale Virginia and Kaya, two incredible accompaniers whom we will greatly miss. We cannot thank them enough for their commitment and the love they shared with us!
April began with alarming news; 54 families, which currently reside in the El Mirador Refugee of Hope and Peace Temporal Humanitarian Space were at risk of forced eviction after local authorities offered informal and inadequate resettlement proposals. Having been accepted, these offers would have left most families homeless or without the possibility of making their living from farming.
FORPP responded by meeting with representatives from the Interior Ministry as well as with several embassies. We relied on you, our solidarity network, to help us carry out an effective response. Our network responded immediately with calls and letters to local authorities and embassies. And Nikki and Kaya travelled to El Mirador to stand beside families and meet with local officials. The families of the Temporal Humanitarian Space were able to resist eviction, and we support their struggle, as they demand dignity for life and land. Until then, forced eviction remains a constant threat, and we ask you to keep up the pressure. You can find more information and ways to help here.
In mid-April Jeanine and Michaela accompanied the Interchurch Justice and Peace Commission in Buenaventura during the 1st anniversary of the Humanitarian Space of Puente Nayero. In a region plagued by violence, the Humanitarian Space is the only neighborhood in the past year that has not lost a single resident due to violence or assassination. The anniversary celebration was a time for reflection, of remembering friends and family lost to violent acts and recognizing those who have fallen victim to violence in Puente Nayero and neighboring streets, such as Punta Icaco.
As April came to an end, Gale Virginia and Kaya headed to the field to accompany Tierra Digna in the mining region of Cesar and Magdalena. They just arrived to Don Jaca, a fishing village struggling for survival from the adverse effects of coal exportation, after community members were blockading local streets in response to lacking water supply. The protests ended with police force, and FORPP visited affected families. Several community members had been injured.
Exciting news came from ACOOC (Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors) on April 8th with the presentation of a proposal for a “Social Peace Service”. This “Social Peace Service” was presented to the Peace Commission of the Colombian Congress and would offer a non-violent alternative to Mandatory Military Service.
Our team in the San Jose Peace Community completed the yearly formal accompaniment evaluation this month. The region’s increased movements of armed groups, combined with the suspension of Colombia’s “bombing truce” and with police operations against ‘Clan Usuga’ in Urabá, have kept the team on especially high alert. And throughout it all, we continued training our newest accompanier, Adilah.
In addition to all our in-country accompaniments, we even travelled internationally this month. Exchanging personal experiences and knowledge with other organizations in Latin America, FORPP coordinator Michaela went to Guatemala to attend a meeting with active organizations from Mexico and Colombia. Common concerns were addressed including the criminalization of human rights defenders and tendencies of increased threats and rising attacks on environmental activists.
In numbers, we accompanied for 30 days in San José. The Bogotá team accompanied for a total of 14 days in the departments of Valle de Cauca, Atlántico, Cesar and Magdalena, and in Bogotá. From the capital, we organized an embassy breakfast, and a meeting with representatives of the Interior Ministry. We published seven new pieces on our website and two new photo albums, and invite you to have a look at all of them.
We thank you all for your ongoing support We could not do it without you!